gregory_a_k

“What the bourgeoisie therefore produces, above all, are its own grave-diggers.”—Karl Marx
gregory_a_k » Posts for tag 'writing'

In Motion

I’ve got a number of things in motion that are coming together. Our nonprofit project – the Prison Liberation Collective – has received fiscal sponsorship from the Urbana Champaign Independent Media Center, and we’re working to get several of the main components in operation within the next few months. We met with and will be receiving a small grant from the Crossroads Fund to concretize some of our operations. More details on all of this soon, but here’s an overview of some of our initial projects.

We anticipate starting our solitary confinement group program within the next few months, with Dr. Antonio Martinez, one of the founders of the Kovler Center for the Treatment for Survivors of Torture. This program will begin an unprecedented investigation into the effects of solitary confinement, led by survivors of solitary in conjunction with world-renowned psychologists who have treated torture survivors worldwide, with the hope and expectation that we will be able to learn and share important insights into collectively overcoming the effects of the torture we faced at the hands of the United States government. 

And as the torture practice of solitary confinement continues to be imposed upon an estimated 80,000 – 100,000 men, women and children in the United States, the Prison Liberation Collective will be focused politically and organizationally on fighting to stop solitary confinement and mass incarceration in the US. One major component of this will be the implementation of the nationwide prison journal that I’ve been planning, to connect up those behind the walls with each other and family members, loved ones, supporters and the movements for liberation and justice on this side of the walls, as well as to showcase prison writers. This will entail an online media component as well, building upon some of the work we started with the Torture Survivors Against Solitary website, and anticipating including podcasts and video interviews & discussions regarding solitary confinement and mass incarceration.

We’ll continue to have speaking events, including one coming up on February 10th in Champaign, IL. The bill we fought for last year to drastically limit solitary in Illinois (which was not passed because of the backroom machinations of a phoney prison “watchdog” group whose long-term agenda is to collaborate with the Illinois Department of “Corrections”) is being reintroduced, though because of the pitiful organizational experience of the previous attempt – and the lack of consideration for the effects that reliving solitary has on us as survivors –  the bill will likely not be something that I intend to spend much time on. There’s a public art exposure campaign featuring photos of solitary survivors and those currently locked in solitary that will be coming soon. And a major article on solitary confinement featuring survivors in Illinois in a major magazine will be coming soon. 

With the Prison Liberation Collective receiving fiscal sponsorship, we will be able to do a lot of work collectively on many issues related to ending solitary confinement and mass incarceration, with a directly built-in psychological support system. I will be able to let you know more soon about how you can contribute to our work.

-Gregory

Posted in Thoughts
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

untitled

I’m writing in solitary confinement.

Alone.

With constant noise.

And walls.

Just walls.

Remembering.

Being beaten.

With leather belts.

As a child.

By people who were supposed to be your “parents.”

Whatever the fuck those are.

Whoever the fuck those are.

But nothing matters.

In those moments.

Strung out across seconds and minutes and days and weeks and years on end.

In the Cell.

Alone.

Again.

Forever.

 

And here I sit again.

Trying to write.

Trying to Remember.

Or Forget.

Those Cells.

Those Days.

In flashing Technicolor glow across the Grey.

White walls.

Glass one-way mirrors on prison gun towers.

With a bullet with your number and hour and minute inscribed upon each particle

Careening at light speed towards oblivion.

Remembering and Forgetting Countless Lives

Each

Time

You

Breathe

And your heart beats.

A name.

Forgotten.

Because none of it mattered.

And nothing does or ever will in your eyes

Aflame for each other but always apart.

No one ever is.

And the world ends every time you leave and reconfigures itself anew again in this fucked up position every time

 

Aloft on wings of Flame and Fire

Burns All of the Memories out of your Mind.

Because

In Remembering

you are forgetting

what you wanted to be

And does that life exist?

Somewhere?

Unbeknownst to you is another life

full of laughter

and longing

and joy

that erases

the years

With every touch of your fingertip upon my cheek.

But who would touch me?

Without shackles

and chains

and cuffs

constraining

my dying body

So certain you could lock the door and throw away the key…

But what becomes of boys and girls unwanted and unloved?

Ashamed of imaginary sins.

Of retribution

from figments

of your own

twisted imagination?

 

Sold.

By peddlers

of lies

and trash.

Rubbish.

Strewn across a dirty Chicago alley

full of piss

and vomit

from the regurgitated filth

That forms

In “Those Places”

That you created.

From your own

petty fears

and vainglorious

necessity

for everything

to be

“perfect”

In Whose Eyes?

Motherfuckers.

At whose benefit?

For whose posterity?

From what other

lofty sounding

pile of shit

politician

who lives

cannibalistically

upon

Those People

 

I was telling people about the day I was released from prison. Directly from having spent over six years straight in solitary confinement.

I was shackled and chained & handcuffed pushing a cart with the remnants of 11 years spent in the “custody” of the Department of Corrections

Went to trial from solitary confinement when I was seventeen. Spent about seven and a half years in various forms of solitary confinement

But here I am.

Among the so-called living.

Doing something resembling trying to live a life.

Posted in Thoughts
Tags: , , , , , ,

Wandering

The last few months have been rough, putting in a lot of work against solitary confinement, and specifically in support of a very non-seriously planned bill (the Isolated Confinement Restriction Act) to limit solitary in Illinois. Frankly, I’ve never been involved in organizing with people who were less serious and less organized… It really is detrimental to do some half-assed bullshit like what happened with that bill.

My friend Brian Nelson and myself threw in as much as we could, given that we both have lived for many years in those cells and still have friends there, and took this as seriously as possible. Unfortunately, I cannot say the same for the vast majority of other people and groups working on this bill. There was no seriousness to the time-frame for organizing support for it. There was no plan – or time – for support to be built. There was no concern whatsoever for the cost that it would take on us – or others –  as survivors of torture.  This isn’t meant to be an in-depth critique or analysis, but it was terribad.

Certainly I think it was the right thing to do to support the bill and put in the work that we did, but I don’t think I can in good conscience do something similar again. You cannot ask people to put themselves on the line for something that isn’t serious. I’ve spent far too much time and energy killing myself slowly on the front lines of struggles that far too few people involved with are really taking seriously.

And just in terms of the personal cost, speaking in the Capitol of the government that tortured me and continues to use the torture practice of solitary confinement was probably the hardest part. I mean there was no question I’d go and do it, and even though I spoke entirely extemporaneously I feel that what I said was true and true to my convictions. But I don’t know that it was “worth it” – I don’t feel that one word that any of us said was taken seriously. I don’t have any expectation that what we said had any real impact on whether this bill passed or not (or might in the future). It certainly did not stop the practice of torture in the form of solitary confinement in Illinois. And we are worse off emotionally and psychologically from the process…


So here I am, back in Tokyo for a couple weeks. I was here for a few days in April, which was cool, but wanted to get more of a feel for the city. I wish I knew Japanese so that I could talk to more people. But I’ve definitely had some interesting experiences. Even been on a few “dates” – which I guess it takes coming hallway around the globe for me to experience, since I have no such luck in the US…

Speaking of shitholes, I’ve watched a bit of the election crap on tv here. I cannot believe anyone takes choosing between Dumb and Dumber every four years to be something reflective of serious political engagement. Despite the very real shortcomings and limitations, I’m happy that there is finally a real incipient movement for liberation developing in the streets (and prisons) in the US. Much more needs to develop, of course, but for the first time in decades something has ruptured – especially since Ferguson.

Anyhow, so I guess I’ve been on a couple “dates” – I’m not very impressed by the process thus far. Other than that I’ve just been wandering around Tokyo, trying to figure out my next steps, trying to figure out where I’m going… None of that is particularly clear to me. In a lot of ways I’m more isolated than I have been perhaps ever. That is not the best place for me to be, but despite my best efforts, I always remain alone.

I’ve got a few more stories to tell, but writing has been much more difficult than I’ve anticipated. A large part of it I’m sure is related to the fact that my brain does not want to really re-confront traumatic shit, even though I live with that every moment of every day. I’m not really unhappy with the last piece I wrote, but it wasn’t what I expected it to be. It is what it is, I needed to let it go. But it’s not the whole story, it’s not the book I intend – and sometimes feel that I need – to write.

Right now, the only thing I know I have to try to do is survive. I’ll figure out the rest on the way. But I have to be in a place that I can survive. I don’t know where that place is. But I’ll wander around until I find it…

Posted in Thoughts
Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

A Few Thoughts

In prison, if you’re not a complete idiot, you recognize rather quickly that it is wise to refrain from putting things on paper. Especially when you know that things can always be twisted by the administration to put you in a more fucked up place.

I spent my first Christmas in prison when I was 18 – I had spent the previous Christmas when I was 17 in the county jail just before going to trial from solitary confinement and being sentenced to 20 years in prison for a gang-related shooting. I was in Joliet prison at the time – if you’ve seen The Blues Brothers, it’s the prison Jake gets out of in the beginning of the movie. Joliet prison is a medieval-castle-looking monstrosity that was built by convicts in 1858 – prior to the Civil War!

Photo Attribution By I, Daniel Schwen, <a href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/" title="Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0">CC BY-SA 3.0</a>, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=5267339

Photo Attribution By I, Daniel Schwen, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=5267339

It was also the last max joint that still had college classes at the time. I got my GED within a few months of being there, they said I got the highest score on the test that they’d seen in years, and the GED teacher asked me to work for him as a teacher’s aid. I found the notion of working for the prison that was holding me captive to be a patently absurd idea, but given that he was a pretty nice guy and seemed to genuinely care about the guys getting some semblance of education in his class, I reluctantly agreed to try it out. That lasted a couple weeks before I was sent to seg for some stupid shit. I think the college classes I was taking went out the window then too. Plus I got bored with the stupid homework, which I’ve always detested – pointless busywork. They had some graduation party for the GED class too, where they let people come in from the streets and had nice food and whatnot – I refused to even go to that shit. I didn’t get my GED to “impress” anyone in the system and I certainly wasn’t interested in legitimizing the institution holding me captive.

Gregory Koger GED Transcript Joliet Prison

Gregory Koger GED Transcript Joliet Prison

At Christmas time my grandma, being the kind soul that she was, decided to send me and my celly at the time Christmas cards with money orders for a few bucks. I don’t remember the exact amount, could have been $10 or $25 or something like that. And we both were served “tickets” from the administration of the prison for “trading and trafficking” – because my grandma decided out of the kindness of her heart to send me and my celly Christmas cards with a couple bucks to both of us.

Just one example of how a tender, kind, humane gesture was criminalized by the “authorities” of the “correctional” department of the state of Illinois.

So, I had kept a long practice of not writing things down on paper, because the prison administration could take anything and turn it into some “infraction” if some petty motherfucker with nothing better to do with their time decided that they wanted to fuck with guys who “The People of the State of Illinois” deemed guilty of some “offense” worthy of imprisonment.

I know I should probably be spending more time putting some of this writing into a format that will be useful for the book, but if I never make it to the point where anything I get written actually makes its way into a piece of literature that is deemed worthy of being printed in ink on dead trees by whoever decides such things, then none of this shit is gonna matter any way.

So this will be what it will be. And frankly, there’s a lot of shit that I need to get out of my head. I’ve made both some serious attempts and made some serious progress in getting real work on the book underway. But I’ve also realized that given where I’m at and what I’m dealing with, this process is going to be longer than I’d like or expected. And whether I want to be ok with that or not, I have to be ok with that because that is the reality of what I’m dealing with in my life.

And to me writing is a social act. It’s meant to be shared. If I keep everything in my head, it’ll never have a chance of being shared, or be of any value whatsoever to someone, somewhere, even if it’s only as an example of what not to do. But nothing else really seems to be working.

And I’ve missed just being able to try to work through some of my thoughts on my website. There were some real, legitimate strategic reasons why I perhaps should have taken some more care and thought to what I was writing here prior to my lengthy struggle taking on the political prosecution initiated by the “Ethical Humanist” Society of Chicago in conjunction with the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office and Skokie police (and whoever else had input in it). But there were also other less than healthy and legitimate reasons that led to curtailing my use of the one significant place where I could write in a public forum (even if no one ever reads my website) and work through some things in my head.

And at a time in my life when I’ve been attempting to take some very initial steps of doing things most people do in the years that I spent as a teenager in prison, as well as attempting to recover from years in prison and solitary confinement as well as said multi-year political prosecution and being locked up again, I’ve had both my adoptive parents die. And a number of people who allegedly were friends and comrades of mine have shown quite clearly that that was not in fact the case.

So in many ways I’ve been more isolated than I’ve been in a long time. Some good friends and comrades of mine have continued to stand with me, and that has been tremendously important and something I’m quite grateful for. But having both of the people who were as close to parents as I’ll ever have die within 10 months of each other, and having a large number of people that you’ve worked closely with for many years essentially ex you out on some pretty seriously ridiculous pretense – AFTER I have spent years disregarding my own personal issues and health in order to be involved in the broader struggle against the many injustices of this system, and been on the front lines in that struggle many times… Yeah, not the most helpful combination of things for me to have to deal with by myself when I’m already deep in a fucked up hole from being locked up and tortured for years.

Hearing about MarShawn McCarrel‘s death on Monday night was quite hard to take. The fact that no one else I was with said one word about it, and didn’t even seem to know about it, made it even harder. I was down at the University of Illinois in Champaign because a good friend of mine, Brian Nelson, was invited down there to speak Tuesday and Wednesday about both his experience in solitary and the work he does with Uptown People’s Law Center and helping other prisoners and their families fight against the criminal system of injustice in the United States.

It’s hard to talk about that experience. Frankly, most of the time that I’ve spoken publicly about it I speak more about the broader political history and agenda of solitary and the need to fight to end it rather than the specifics of how it affected and continues to affect me. And I’m quite disturbed by the paucity of serious criticism of the pervasive use of torture in the form of long-term isolation in solitary confinement that the United States is using on tens of thousands of men, women, and children on any given day. Even groups and people who do a lot of important work around mass incarceration have, in my estimation, been far too complacent in accepting the crumbs of “reform” on what is torture. You cannot be taken seriously – not by me, at least, or anyone with consistency of principles –  if you applaud torturing a few less people, or banning a torture practice for juveniles but continuing it for adults.

And, as we continue to see, the police murder of people of color has not abated one iota since those nights a year and a half ago when the people in Ferguson really put this struggle on the map internationally. Even with all the important and militant actions that many people have bravely and courageously been doing since then, risking their lives and health and futures – including protestors like Josh Williams (a young brother I’m deeply honored to have met and to have stood shoulder-to-shoulder with on the front lines in Ferguson) spending more time in jail for protesting than any one of the pigs who killed Michael Brown, Rekia Boyd, or Eric Garner have spent.

If any other government was murdering it’s own citizens every single day – on video, in public, in utterly outrageous and disgusting circumstances – that government would be the target of an international campaign of condemnation, it would be considered a rogue nation, it would have sanctions levied against it and its leaders would be criminally charged – and probably an international military coalition would come in and take out that government. The United States is doing that and much more every single day. Juan Mendez, the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, is barred by the U.S. government from investigating the torture practices of solitary confinement in U.S. prisons. These are life and death daily realities for tens of millions of people of color – Black folks in particular. This is utterly illegitimate and must be stopped – now.

This isn’t meant to be some super-serious analysis or fully developed critique. Things have been quite hard for me and hearing about MarShawn made the day much harder, juxtaposed with some of the discussions and things I’ve been dealing with, it just made me feel it was way past time I tried to write, more or less unfiltered, on my website and try to get some of this shit out of my head.

Because as many times as I’ve tried to explain to even some dear friends of mine that I feel both care about my wellbeing and have some real understanding of solitary, almost no one gets how seriously this shit affects us every moment of every day. And I was attempting to have a serious discussion about this with some of my friends and that conversation got sidetracked into a different discussion about respectability politics and some other shit. Which in a certain sense is fine, but on another level I really felt like even that was an example of how when I was trying to get some shit out of my head about how all of this is affecting me, and trying to share with some friends of mine about that, that point got completely subsumed in another separate discussion on respectability and language (which in and of itself was not necessarily a bad thing to discuss).

Anyhow, I gotta start getting more of this shit out of my head… So maybe I’ll be on here a little more frequently.

Posted in Thoughts
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Hello 2016

Been a while since I’ve done this. Writing, here, just for myself.

A lot has changed. For me, personally, as well as on a lot of fronts.

My dad died in December 2014 and my mom died in October 2015.

I managed, somehow, to make it through 2015.

Some true friends stood with me.

I’ve taken some real, important steps in my personal life.

I’ve done some writing, and made some real progress on the book.

I’ve had to accept that some of what I’m dealing with is going to take longer than I’d like.

I have still played a small part in fighting this system – and will continue to do so.

I’m regrouping, working on writing, and figuring out my next steps.

I hope to have more I can share here soon.

 

Gregory

Chicago – January 26, 2016

 

Miss Geraldine Smith’s Radio Show

Recently I’ve been invited to speak on Miss Geraldine Smith’s radio program on Sunday nights with my friend Brian Nelson, Prisoners’ Rights Coordinator at Uptown People’s Law Center.

 

Discussing Solitary Confinement – Miss Geraldine Smith Radio Show 1-31-16
Miss Geraldine Smith Radio Show 1-24-16
Miss Geraldine Smith Radio Show 1-17-16
Miss Geraldine Smith Ratio Show 12-27-15
Miss Geraldine Smith Radio Show 12-6-15

Posted in Thoughts
Tags: , , ,